By staying alert to career alternatives, you can nimbly move from one occupation to another in ways that are personally and professionally satisfying and profitable. This article provides guidance for how to do so.
Some people know exactly what they want ... and how to get it. They move single-mindedly forward and gain what they seek. When they gain something gratifying and enjoyable, the straightforward approach can feel as if it's perfect.

Others aren't so sure what the choices are, and they don't want to prematurely rule out better alternatives. After many decades of searching, some of these people are still looking for more fulfilling work and better ways to spend their leisure time. They may feel vaguely dissatisfied as they do.

A third approach is to grab what looks great in the moment and stick with it until something better surfaces. I think of this approach as being like what a journalist does: always seeking whatever is new and interesting.

The third approach always comes to mind whenever I hear a journalist ask the profession's standard question: "What's new with you?"

Having often found that question to be personally helpful for taking stock, I've increased my appreciation of looking for and learning more about what's new. Otherwise, anyone can lose perspective about what he or she can gain by being active in a field.

When I was a student, my best professors and mentors would ask me this question from time to time. I knew that the question wasn't an idle one because the reactions to what I said were thoughtful and helpful, often helping advance my thinking much further than I could have on my own.

Now that I'm a professor, I ask my students the question as often as possible, followed by the query: "How can I help?"

Unfortunately, some people struggle with explaining their thinking when responding to these empowering questions. While they know what they want, others don't understand their point.

Noticing these frequent communication gaps often leads journalists into public relations work, as well as to an opportunity for responding to new challenges ... and gaining the potential to earn a bit higher income.

Have you ever wondered what happens after a journalist makes that switch in roles? Some don't like the work ... and may drift off into something different. Others decide that they love it and want more.

What's new with the latter point of view?

In thinking about that question, I'm reminded of my Rushmore University faculty colleague, Professor Bill Brody. Before answering, let me tell you a little about him.

Like many journalists, Bill started out in print. Experience counts for a lot in this work. You have to get the story of what's new, organize it, and spell it out briefly and powerfully. Some people estimate that it can take over 10,000 hours of such work to master the process.

Yet you won't find many people today who have spent their entire careers in print journalism. Economic pressures have drastically cut the number of available jobs and made compensation meager for those that remain. In fact, the prospects look so dim that some who love the work never do more than hold brief internships.

Those who can master such writing and also help others get their stories across can go into public relations, a somewhat better paying field where there never seems to be a lack of work. There's a drawback: At the larger public relations firms, opportunities for interesting work can seem quite limited other than among those able to attract enjoyable clients.

However, if you can attract clients, you will usually earn quite a bit more by serving them at your own firm. And that's what led Professor Brody to found an independent organization. He was good at finding clients and helping them. His practice blossomed.

After his children were almost grown, Bill asked himself, "What else might prove interesting to me?" He became intrigued by the idea of studying education. Following that line of thinking, he earned an M.A. from California State University and a doctorate in education from what is now The University of Memphis.

A few months after he completed the second degree, the department of journalism's chairman posed an unexpected question: "Would you like to try teaching?" Because his personal circumstances permitted it, Professor Brody decided to try and continued with this "trial" for twenty-five years. During these years, he taught journalism and public relations, and published an impressive list of books and journal articles.

During these years, he often asked "Why not?" when considering new activities, rather than "Why?" His perspective led to many fruitful educational experiments. As an example, he developed America's first distance learning program at the master's level.

This teaching fit well with Bill's guiding principle for making career choices: "Do only what you enjoy doing." Over the years, he met many students who became effective writers as well as continuing friends.

Recently, all that changed. He retired from his classroom work in frustration over declining levels of language skill among undergraduate students.

Teaching has taught Professor Brody that change is life's only certainty. Reflecting on his experiences in print journalism, public relations, and teaching, he feels blessed to have entered each of these fields at the right time to gain considerable personal satisfaction from the work. Few such opportunities exist today.

Bill has continued teaching at Rushmore because he likes counseling students about their careers while tutoring them in one-on-one online tutorials. Students continually surprise him with their answers to the question: "What's new with you?"

He's excited about today's evolution at Rushmore and the opportunities that process will provide for accomplishing still more with students. What a great reason he has to continue teaching!

What are the lessons for you about what is new?

1. Routinely ask yourself and others "What's new with you?" so you'll be more aware of the opportunities around you.

2. Be open to changing what you do and who you do it with to find more personally rewarding and enjoyable activities.

3. Find what can be improved about what you are doing by applying new ideas from other fields to your own activities.

4. Seek closer engagement with others so that you can contribute more to one another's learning and accomplishments.

5. Capture the lessons of what you learn in ways that enable others to benefit from and apply them.

6. Don't stop looking for something better.

What can you do today to get started?

How will you answer when someone next asks you, "What's new with you?"

Author's Bio: 

Donald W. Mitchell is a professor at Rushmore University who often teaches people who want to improve their business effectiveness in order to accomplish career breakthroughs through earning advanced degrees. For more information about ways to engage in fruitful lifelong learning at Rushmore University to increase your effectiveness, I invite you to visit